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Adaptive BREEDING for productive, sustainable and resilient FORESTs under climate change

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - B4EST (Adaptive BREEDING for productive, sustainable and resilient FORESTs under climate change)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

With 161 million ha, forests cover approximately 38% of the EU-28’s land area that is key to biodiversity conservation, carbon storage and the provision of renewable raw materials for the bio-based economy. European forests are experiencing rapid climate change characterised by high uncertainty in its timing and magnitude. Climate change increases forest vulnerability to damage and disease, fostering more frequent and intense abiotic and biotic threats that affect forest sustainability and cause severe economic losses.
The strategic goal of B4EST is to increase forest health, resilience and productivity under climate change, while maintaining genetic diversity and key ecological functions and fostering a competitive EU bio-based economy. To reach its goal, B4EST will make scientific, technological and implementation breakthroughs to :
• Provide better scientific knowledge of species vulnerability to major abiotic and biotic disturbances and of trade-offs between production, resistance/resilience and reproductive capacity
• Diversify the portfolio of forest reproductive material (FRM) at both species and intra-species levels. Innovative FRM development requires the: 1) identification of gene pools and genotypes that can deliver forest health and productivity under changing environments, 2) definition of optimal genetic diversity within improved FRM to preserve the adaptive capacity of planted forests under future conditions of high uncertainty, and 3) development of cost- and time-efficient breeding strategies that meet the diversity and rapid change of both environmental and economic contexts.
• Make the portfolio of FRM accessible to forest managers through secure seed/plant supply, decision tools and recommendations. Local and regional assessment of vulnerabilities and opportunities is crucial to identifying efficient adaptation strategies and to making well-informed decisions. The industrial partners in the consortium will address this challenge from the end-user perspective.
• Integrate a landscape-level view and a transnational forest sector analysis of risks, costs and benefits. Novel adaptive breeding strategies must simultaneously deliver sustainable wood yields, a range of ecosystem services, resilience and biodiversity conservation at large geographical scales.
To cover the geographical, economic and societal needs of forestry in Europe, B4EST will work with 8 conifers and broadleaves with advanced breeding programmes or that are case studies of pest-threatened forests.
B4EST organized its kick-off meeting in Orléans, France, June 2018, where a great place was given to the elaboration of action plans per task, to the outline of interactions between WPs and tools of common interest. The dissemination plan and the website were rapidly released. Dissemination products include a booklet, a newsletter, a Tweeter feed (@B4EST_EU) and blog pieces, all viewable at: http:/www.b4est.eu/. The first annual meeting was held in Edinburgh, UK in May 2018. The goal of the meeting was to review progress made, solve pending issues ad organize the upcoming work of the second year of the project.
The benefits and drawbacks of different spatial climate data and projections from different portals were compared. Decision was made to develop a downscaling tool to deliver scale-free data for analysing genetic trials and to ask for an updated version of the preferred ClimateEU portal. A new climate matching tool was developed to assess potential areas of colonisation of biotic threats under climate change. First experiments to assess genetic variation for resistance to abiotic (frost, drought) or biotic stress have been established and first results were provided. Two novel experiments on Eucalyptus and maritime pine are involving a longitudinal study of micro-fluctuations in tree stem diameter at short-time intervals to register tree response to drought stress. The ΔTraitSDM model which provides the possibility of combining components of local adaptation and test site acclimation and the interactions between these effects was tested with success on pine species.
The outline of a collaborative review paper on trade-offs in forest trees was prepared and the selection of genetic trials and phenotypic data to assess these trade-offs in different genetic pools and environments was finalized. In parallel, SNP markers and genetic trials providing phenotypic traits for the analysis of multi-trait G-P and G-E association studies were defined for the different case-studies.
One of the key technological breakthrough to ensure quality genotyping for the implementation of genomic selection is almost fulfilled for six relevant species (Fraxinus spp, poplar spp, Picea abies, Pinus sylvestris, P. pinea and P. pinaster). One 50K SNP array is ready for use while the two others, the prototype is at the latest steps of the designing phase.
Another major output during the period has been the development and release of a freely available decision support web tool for improved Scots pine FRM. It allows forest owners in both Sweden and Finland to choose a site and receive recommendations of the best performing contemporary seed orchards, combining the two most important traits, growth and survival, in a future climate. An experimental greenhouse seed orchard for Maritime pine has been established to explore the possibility to limit damages caused on seed production by pests, diseases and climatic extremes.
One major stakeholder consultation regarding demands towards improved FRM was conducted through an online survey. With 565 responses, this survey revealed high expectations for adaptive strategies such as diversification of tree species, artificial regeneration with improved FRM and enrichment of natural regeneration with FRM better adapted to future climate changes. The analysis of economic impacts of the adaptive breeding strategies for the European breeding sector started by identifying costs of breeding activities of three different tree species which benefit of advanced breeding programs.
B4EST brings together 19 public and private partners, contributing a wide variety of skills, expertise and long-standing experience in the area of forest tree breeding, elaboration of recommendations for their deployment and evaluation of their benefit for the forest sector.
Key climatic and epidemiological information have been gathered to identify key biotic and abiotic factors underlying species productivity, resilience and future adaptation. Collaborative efforts are deployed to assess ad manage trade-offs between forest productivity, resilience to threats and adaptive capacity. Increase prediction accuracy and better management of genetic diversity is expected from selection models integrating genomic information produced in the project. Successful integration of new knowledge on forest resilience, forest management options and economics still constitutes a major challenge that B4EST is facing when building operational decision support tools.
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